The ransom recovery, which is the first seizure undertaken by the recently created DOJ digital extortion taskforce, is a rare outcome for a company that has fallen victim to a debilitating cyberattack in the booming criminal business of ransomware.
The Department of Justice announced that it has seized 63.7 bitcoins currently valued at approximately $2.3 million. These funds allegedly represent the proceeds of a May 8, ransom payment to individuals in a group known as DarkSide, which had targeted Colonial Pipeline, resulting in critical infrastructure being taken out of operation.
“Following the money remains one of the most basic, yet powerful tools we have,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco for the U.S. Department of Justice. “Ransom payments are the fuel that propels the digital extortion engine, and today’s announcement demonstrates that the United States will use all available tools to make these attacks more costly and less profitable for criminal enterprises. We will continue to target the entire ransomware ecosystem to disrupt and deter these attacks. Today’s announcements also demonstrate the value of early notification to law enforcement; we thank Colonial Pipeline for quickly notifying the FBI when they learned that they were targeted by DarkSide.”
On or about May 7, Colonial Pipeline was the victim of a highly publicized ransomware attack resulting in the company taking portions of its infrastructure out of operation. Colonial Pipeline reported to the FBI that its computer network was accessed by an organization named DarkSide and that it had received and paid a ransom demand for approximately 75 bitcoins.
As alleged in the supporting affidavit, by reviewing the Bitcoin public ledger, law enforcement was able to track multiple transfers of bitcoin and identify that approximately 63.7 bitcoins, representing the proceeds of the victim’s ransom payment, had been transferred to a specific address, for which the FBI has the “private key,” or the rough equivalent of a password needed to access assets accessible from the specific Bitcoin address. This bitcoin represents proceeds traceable to a computer intrusion and property involved in money laundering and may be seized pursuant to criminal and civil forfeiture statutes.
The Department components who worked on this seizure coordinated their efforts through the Department’s Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force, which was created to combat the growing number of ransomware and digital extortion attacks.
The FBI said it has been investigating DarkSide, which is said to share its malware tools with other criminal hackers, for over a year.
Te U.S. Justice Department press conference regarding ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline
Colonial Pipeline Co. CEO Joseph Blount told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published last month that the company complied with the $4.4 million ransom demand because officials didn’t know the extent of the intrusion by hackers and how long it would take to restore operations.
But behind the scenes, the company had taken early steps to notify the FBI and followed instructions that helped investigators track the payment to a cryptocurrency wallet used by the hackers, believed to be based in Russia, according to CNN.
„In prezent, fiind o piata cu o volatilitate foarte mare, cu multi traderi sezonieri care incearca sa profite de aceasta volatilitate, volumul a crescut mult. Sunt zeci de milioane de euro pe luna tranzactionati prin Bitcoin Romania, pe toate produsele noastre, pe platforma online si prin ATM-uri. S-a dovedit ca bitcoin este un activ de stocare pe termen lung iar cei care au facut profitul cel mai mare sunt cei care au avut rabdare, de la trei ani in sus.”
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